Friends, these past weeks I have found myself holding my tribe close. Maybe annoyingly so. It has made me think about how I parent. And how I used to parent. And what exactly I am trying to cultivate in our kids and our family.
I am not sure I could have answered that very clearly a few years ago.
Because I really didn’t know.
Parenting in the beginning.
In the beginning, I was super concerned about behavior. Are you saying please, thank you? Did you shake hands? Did you introduce yourself without being prompted? Did you leave McDonald’s without screaming your head off? Did you accept consequences without throwing a fit? These were my worries.
It was a very superficial way to parent. My kids behaved, most of the time.
But I am not sure they knew why they behaved, except that maybe they would get in trouble if they didn’t. And sometimes that is okay. Sometimes not.
The parenting change came slowly, over time. A molasses-like evolution that is a direct result of our children schooling me in the arts of kindness, compassion, and resiliency. These younger-than-me people taught me about a world beyond my comfortable life and my selfish wants.
It is still a difficult lesson. And I am still learning.
This manner of living has created a singular focus in our family for people living marginalized lives. Living my white-ish life with all of the privileges is not necessarily real. Assuming that others have our same opportunities is absolutely not real. And living with the people I live with, makes these realities impossible to ignore.
While we evaluated and re-evaluated and adjusted our parenting to better suit our particular children, we tried to pinpoint exact lessons, for everyone’s benefit. (especially me, I am not good with subtle lessons.
One constant theme we came back to again and again:
“We need to know where we want to go and have a plan to get there.”
This applies to being a kid. And an adult.
We started implementing this idea in our parenting.
What kind of kids are we trying to raise here?
And what kind of kids do I not want to raise?
And how do we get there?
I do not want to raise whining, sniveling children frightened by every shadow.
Sometimes there are fights that should be fought. Wars that should be declared. Sometimes we must chase the shadows. We must be the light for lives marred and darkened by trials and tragedy.
As Nigel and I are getting older-ish, I am more and more unimpressed with talkers and complainers. I am more interested in do-ers. I want to raise children that DO. Life-livers, not just passive observers.
A few days ago, Corban was having a particularly hard time with Auggie’s death, as we all do at times. And I asked him, “Corb, could you have loved Auggie more or better than you did?” Corban responded, “No, but I could have loved him longer.”
In our situation, Corban’s answer is the absolute best I could hope for. That is exactly how I want to live. And how I want my kids to live. As a lover of people. All people. I want to know that we couldn’t have loved more or better. That we said yes, even when we choked on the word. That we chose to GO. That we chose to DO. Even when it wasn’t ideal.
I don’t want the kids to spend their days protecting themselves from the possibility of failure or heartache. I want them to dive head first into this life. To love bravely. Without spending time to think: this might hurt. I want my humans to know the valuable part of this life is found in what we are willing to give.
This does not mean that we will always get it right. There is no place for perfection in this arena. Only, what I hope, is a true, earnest effort to love people.
The plan. And how to get there.
The plan is to raise functional, society-contributing adults. Getting there means taking risks on humans. This is how we find and promote justice, peace, joy, and kindness to the generations beyond us. I am realizing there may be no risks too outlandish for the sake of humans in the brutal periphery. I know my children would agree. Kids are always the first ones on board with any scheme that involves people. They want to adopt first, to foster first, to invite people to live with us first…while I drag behind them, weighing the cost and potential disasters, they charge ahead.
We get to there by saying yes. By giving grace. By correcting wrongs, teaching forgiveness. By loving those around us. By doing hard things because that is what is right.
I want to be fearless like the minors that occupy my house and life. I want to love bravely, to choose what is hard over what is convenient. In the end, I want to be able to answer the question “Could you have loved more or better than you did?” with an honest NO.
Parenting is hard. Life is hard. We spend our days fretting about irrelevant subject matter. Being entirely drawn in to unimportant frivolities. I am hopeful that we are getting closer to what matters. Because I really want to paint a picture of service and kindness and justice for our children. Of brokenness and love. A life given up and poured out for another. A life loving well and being well-loved is well lived. And that is where we are going. I hope.